Monday -- June 1, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Last night around 2200 hrs a helicopter flew downriver above the canal with its searchlight
scanning the towpath. I have never seen this before and can only wonder what they were
Tuesday -- June 2, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
The goose population seems to be thinning. Whereas once there were four families with perhaps
eighteen goslings, now there seem to be only two families with about eight. The grass is not
growing as fast during these drier days so there is not so much to support the twenty four
adult regulars we had previously, that number has now dwindled to about ten. The adults are
starting to moult, and it will be interesting to see if they all leave afterwards as they did
last year. We should all hope so, as two families have staked out the Captain's sitting float
and the now wooden swimming float to spend the night on. Perfect for them as the accommodation
includes a human who will come clean up the poop every day.
Wednesday -- June3, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
The wet weather has certainly brought out the skeeters... and in fact bugs and spiders of
all sorts in much greater profusion. Last year it seemed to be always pleasant outside around
dusk, but this year is different. Bring repellent if you plan to stay late in the afternoon.
Thursday -- June 4, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
The geese are growing scarce... down to one couple and two singles full time on the Island.
In the afternoon others visit, but the two families with goslings seem to only pass by on the
way to somewhere else. The grass is not growing as fast or as lushly, and some parts
now seem to have been grazed to death, and this coincides with increased river vegetation, so they are
taking their meals elsewhere. The river seems to be completely recovered from the '96 floods.
There is lots of water plants and lots of fish. Paul Stanton reported seeing at least 20 great
blue herons feeding at separate places along the river above Sycamore, and this would support
the rumours of a rookery up at wide water.
Friday -- June 5, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
One incident I have been meaning to report has solved the mystery of why the geese sometimes
fly up to the roof of the canoe shed and create a ruckus. Sometimes it gets positively loud
down here, as when I went out last week to investigate a commotion of intermingled goose and
crow sounds. There were goslings on the open lawn, and about four black birds (they seemed
to large to be simple crows) were perched on lower limbs around the lawn. The black birds
would swoop down and make passes at the smallest goslings, actually much the same behaviour
one would expect with a falcon or hawk. They seemed to work together, coming in quickly at
frequent intervals from different directions. Of course, this had about 20 adult geese all
squawking madly. I did not see any goslings carried away, but almost, and the process seemed
well rehearsed by the black birds and could certainly explain why the number of goslings has
diminished slightly in the last two weeks It could also explain why families with goslings
have stopped wandering around the open lawn. Finally, a couple of geese flew to the top of
the canoe shed and strutted and honked challengingly. This put them above the "swoop zone"
where they could threaten to drop down on any black bird making a pass, and so the black birds
Monday -- June 8, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
The daylilies are out and the color is riotous. The Island is decked out from one end to the
other. This is especially gratifying to the Caretaker because last year they hardly bloomed
at all. At first I presumed that the floods of the year before had dropped so much sediment
that the soil level had changed on many plants, causing them to spend a year readjusting
themselves. Now I am of the theory that the floods are god for certain clumped perennials
because of the dynamics of the top several inches of soil when beneath flood waters. It seems
that those daylilies on the lower reaches of the Island are not as congested in their clumps...
the beds are as though divided... as though when under water, and the soil more the consistency
of a thick soup in which things can rearrange themselves, that the daylily roots flex and push
away from each other. The bed near the canoe shed, which has only been under water twice
during the '96 floods, does need dividing and is unlike the others. Of course, this year
the daylilies have benefited from some serious weeding. However, this has mostly been
inadvertent, the result of last year's mid-season haj against the stinging nettle, which has
continued this year. The only weeding dedicated for the sake of the daylilies themselves has
been to pluck out the jewel weed from the front of certain beds. Everyone is encouraged to
see the massive daylily bed now accessible by the new "beaver trail."
Tuesday -- June 9, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Fisher persons... beware!!!! Last Saturday a Ranger was noted checking the catch of a
fisherman sitting on our towpath steps. The fisherman was an older person, who professed
to anyone that came by that he spoke not a word of English, and seemed to convince some
that he was Russian. What little Russian I heard convinced me that he was more likely a poor or
homeless person just wanting to be left alone. He sat on the steps for many hours, and I
saw him pull in at least one catfish. It seemed from a distance that the Ranger might have
written him a ticket (No license??), and certainly he inspected the plastic bag in which the
caught fish were kept. So make sure your own paperwork is in order if you come to fish...
they are checking.
Wednesday -- June 10, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
This morning we received an early call from Tove Elfstrom to inform us that our VW golf parked
at the top of the hill on Walhonding had been pushed into the middle of the road and was
creating a traffic problem. Sure enough, vandals had apparently put a car behind the VW in
order to do this as the car was locked and in gear and there was a major rut in the gravel
which the wheels had gouged out. The only damage was where the rear wiper had been torn off.
A Mrs. Kennedy who lives across the street walked up to say she had called the police because
while she knew the car belonged to the Island she did not have the number. As we talked about
previous acts of vandalism she said that her daughter had had a VW also and was convinced that
several acts of burglary for parts had been committed by a certain family that lived up the
hill and also had a VW. The daughter had identified the parts because of the mismatched color
on the VW of the alleged perpetrators, and the police had been called and visited the family
but as there was no proof nothing could be done. You might recall that there have been three
other acts of vandalism on our VW and that twice it seemed the purpose was only to steal parts.
Officer Barnette of the Montgomery County Police showed up, was sympathetic, offered several
suggestions of where else to park the car (none realistic), but made clear that although he
would take a report nothing could be done and that the car would continue to be a target as
long as it was parked in the same location. I am now sadly convinced that the only solution
is to sell the vehicle.
Thursday -- June 11, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
There has been so much going on this week there has been no opportunity to report the role
two Sycamoreans played in river rescue last Saturday. Mark Brenneman and sons David and Adam
came early to get a canoe and their kayak to take up river and put in at Angler's Inn.
Somewhere below wide water the rescued a canoeist from an island in the middle of the river
who had taken a spill and lost his canoe. Two of his companions had swum for the Virginia
shore, but the canoeist had his car on the Maryland side and decided to wait for help. He was
lucky that the Brennemans came along, as the river was windy that day and there was not much
traffic on the water. It is also a reminder of the dangers of the river even in its quiet
times... as they lost there canoe in relatively tame and low water... the gauge being only
3.6 feet at Little falls.
Later that day, near dusk, Betty Burchell rang the bell with a strange woman in tow. The woman
had left her teen age son and a small bass boat off at lock 10. The son had had a small
electric trawling motor, but the wind had been so strong that he had immediately been carried
down river and the mother had worried that he would not be able to return to lock 10 at the
appointed pickup time. Sure enough, he had not returned, the mother had walked all the way
down from lock 10 looking for him, meeting Betty on the way who had offered to help, there
was no sign of him down to Little Falls, and Betty was bringing her to the Island to use the
phone to determine if the son had come ashore some where and contacted someone. He had not,
it was starting to get dark, and the conversation turned to whether or not the Glen Echo Fire
Station should be contacted to put their boat in the water before it was too late to search.
Betty offered to accompany the mother on her walk back to lock 10, and we thought them brave
but tragic as they disappeared into the dusk on the towpath for what must have been a long,
dark walk. Late that night Betty called to say that the police had found them on the towpath
with news that the son had been found.
Monday -- June 15, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Tryon Wells has taken on the job of replacing the broken window panes upstairs in the club room,
so this will be a work in progress this week. Despite the wet morning and threat of major
thunderstorms this afternoon, Peggy Clark showed up with her party from the Aspen Institute.
They came for a meeting, and the bad weather may make for more indoor work than outdoor play.
All efforts for grass seem to be undone by the creeping Charlie that taking over the island.
I know there is a wonderful lawn beneath it, but it is so low lying that the mower does not
touch it. There is a patch of ground beyond the far end of the canoe shed that had nothing
on it before I planted the grass... and for months has been a pristine lawn... but the creeping
Charlie is invading from all edges and it will be interesting to see how long before it also
Wedneday -- June 17, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Officer Bill Thomas and equine mount Bravo stopped by the Island to make inquiries about
suspicious persons that might answer the description of a man seen exposing himself on the
iron bridge last Sunday. The man in question was black, stocky, about 40 years old, and
wearing green. You will recall that last year on May 27 there was a similar incident of
indecent exposure on the iron bridge. Officer Thomas is keen to make this collar because
just last week he arrested another man for indecent exposure near lock 7, who subsequently
confessed to many such incidents over the last several years and who fit the description of
last year's perpetrator on the iron bridge. One gets the impression that he gets few
opportunities to actually arrest bad guys, and was clearly motivated to "do it again" as
he described coming out of the woods on horseback to confront someone who felt safe from
Thursday -- June 18, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Yesterday evening we were visited by Bill Jackson, who had been a teenage caretaker in the
early fifties. Caught reminiscing on the towpath, Bill was invited over and described a much
different Sycamore Island Club from his youth. The man who lived here at the time "was not a
caretaker but a gentleman," who was a Harvard trained lawyer that had retired from practising
patent law. Bill would come down and do essential caretaking, ferrying, and anything else that
needed doing for 75 cents an hour. One of the first things he asked about was the pool table,
on which he had been taught by the gentleman, and was especially fond of "bottle pool," where a
leather covered bottle was placed on the table with two balls. The gentleman lived in a shack
behind the clubhouse, where he frequently played classical music, and from which Bill credits
his own love of the genre. He was under the impression that there were only about 15 Members,
only canoeists (and maybe fishermen?), and that there were no swimmers or picnickers on the
Island. No one wore shorts, only slacks and wide brimmed hats.
Friday -- June 19, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Swimmers rejoice... Tryon Wells has come down and installed a new ladder on the swimming
float... not the swimming "dock" which is near the shore, but the new wooden float anchored
out mid-river. The ladder is identical to the one on the dock. Even more important, the
geese are around but in large flocks and are not territorial and thus there are no pairs
nesting on the floats and docks and leaving goose poo about. The water temperature is up
to 76 degrees, but boaters and swimmers should take note that the river is rising to 4.5
feet on Sunday, and there is a lot of current.
Monday -- June 22, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Yesterday there were 11 people on the island by 0930 hours, and so it was crowded by the time
the substitute caretaker got here at 1100 hours. The Sunday previous was similar. Pat Hartge,
sub for the previous Sunday, called during the week to say that when she arrived the Island was
already crowded, the sign-in sheets were missing from the ferry, and that there were several
people on the Island she did not know and could not confirm because of the missing log. There
was a man with two small children fishing from the swimming float who refused to move when
swimmers arrived (this fact subsequently confirmed by other Members on the Island that day),
but after she made the rounds of people on the island to ascertain that no one knew them and
went back to confront him, he had left the Island. Pat suggested that the starting time for
the Sunday substitute caretakers be moved up. At her suggestion, spare sign-in sheets will be
kept in the red notebook upstairs that also contains caretaker instructions, emergency numbers,
a club roster, and other information.
Tuesday -- June 23, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Yesterday was the third day in a row that the park Police have come by policing the towpath.
On Saturday Officer Bill Thomas of the Mounted Patrol came by for the third time during last
week, but on Sunday another officer came by on a three wheeler motorcycle, and Monday an actual
patrol car came by. All of this activity is probably the result of two reported incidents of
indecent exposure during the last two weeks, and you will recall from an earlier log entry that
about ten days ago Officer Thomas surprised and apprehended one of the perpetrators. Betty
Burchell and I have of course called the Park Police to give positive reinforcement to the
increased patrolling, and the Club might do a letter of support.
Wednesday -- June 24, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
Once as I went to answer the bell yesterday, I was surprised to see a dog tied up on the ferry.
A Member (whose name shall go un-mentioned) and his family were having a picnic on the Island,
but the Member himself had come late, a son had offered to go and get his father, and I had
not seen the dog waiting on the towpath with the Member. The Member also hurried to the ferry,
volunteering to handle the ferry while the dog was tied up, and explained that while usually he
left his dog tied up on the towpath while he came to the Island to get his canoe before going to
Ruppert's Island, on this occasion he was late and wanted to grab a bite to eat first... and
after all, he pointed out... while tied up on the ferry the dog was not really on the Island.
I had to admit this was true, but I also considered it to be high drama and great fun to see
which Member might ring the bell while the dog was on the ferry. But none seemed to mind.
When I asked the Member if he had responded with his dog questionnaire, he said that he had
not, that he was actually ambivalent about the issue as he never actually brought his dog on
Thursday -- June 25, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
So... we have more info on the Sunday, 14 Jun incident in which a man was exposing himself
indecently on our own iron bridge. The man was black (coffee), with black hair, 30 to 40
years old, 190 lbs. but round and puffy as though out of shape, wearing green shorts and
white socks with white running shoes. He exposed himself at 1 PM on Chain Bridge and at 2 PM
on our iron bridge. Please call Officer Bill Thomas if you have any info at (202) 472-3760.
It has come up that one reason we do not have more Park Police coverage along our part of the
park is that the barn/mounted police station at Glen Echo was taken from them while our mounted
police were doing temporary duty in Atlanta during the Olympics. Research has suggested that
this was done in a politically deceitful and unethical manner. A promise was made to provide
another facility at Carter Rock, but this seems to be forgotten. As there has been an alarming
increase in several categories of incidents in our area, some Members have decided to get out
the "squeaky wheel" until this issue is resolved, and interested parties can contact Betty
Burchell for more information.
Friday -- June 26, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
The first walnuts have fallen, difficult as that is to believe. I mean... is this still June
or what??? I hope this makes the squirrels give less attention to our bird feeders. Anyone
curious to get eyeball to eyeball to a squirrel, and here I mean 8 inches, has merely to visit
us. Next time you come over on the ferry you might notice a platform feeder attached to a
front glass windowpane. They just walk down the side of the house on the wood strip between
the windows and step on. We would not have believed it had we not seen it, and they made it
look easy. And as you have heard before, no amount of shouting or pounding on the window will
faze them, only the sound of the next window being opened, whereupon they leap to the ground
(13 feet down and 15 feet out.)
Monday -- June 29, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
The Ghost of Sycamore was actually seen Saturday night by the over night campers of Mardy
Burgess' junior high schoolers. Usually the ghost is only heard... his diabolical laugh echoing
in the darkness, but reportedly he appeared out of the dark during the early stages of a
campfire. He had an other worldly head and face with large dark eyes, and seemed otherwise
clad in dark, unusual for a ghost, and thus was able to approach close to the fire before
shrieks apparently drove him off. At various times throughout the night his laugh was heard,
and it is unclear how much sleep was had by the campers.
Because of the unusual rains the river is expected to rise throughout the week. The Shenandoah
and upper stem Potomac are already at hazardous levels, and while it is doubtful as of Monday
morning that this will close the Island later this week, people wishing to come to the Island
later in the week would be wise to check.
Wednesday -- June 30, 1998 -- The Club is OPEN
All day Monday the sounds of a chain saw could be heard from across the river... sounded like
the rich folks were trying to improve their view. Then, in the early evening quiet, there was
the sound of a massive tree fall. We have now heard this enough times that there was no
mistaking it. This time, however, there was not the accompanying sound of limbs crashing.
Perhaps it was an old tree without limbs... or perhaps they were all sawed off during the day.